Tunisia’s Interior Ministry deployed a police robot to patrol the streets of the capital and enforce a lockdown imposed in March 2020 to help the country battle the spread of COVID-19.
Known as PGuard, the “robocop” is remotely operated and equipped with infrared and thermal imaging cameras, in addition to a sound and light alarm system.
In images and a soundtrack posted on the ministry’s website in March, PGuard calls out to suspected violators of the lockdown: “What are you doing? Show me your ID. You don’t know there’s a lockdown?”
Tunisia imposed a nighttime curfew on March 17, and authorities imposed stricter lockdown orders starting on March 22.
The robot’s Tunisian creator, Anis Sahbani, told AFP the machine first was produced in 2015 to carry out security patrols. It also operates autonomously through artificial intelligence.
The robot, built by Sahbani’s Enova Robotics firm, costs between $100,000 to $140,000 and has been selling mostly overseas to companies for security uses.
Several of the robots have been donated to the Interior Ministry.
The company, based in the eastern city of Sousse, was planning to deploy another robot in a Tunis hospital to help coronavirus patients communicate with relatives.
A third robot was expected to be operational by the end of April in hospitals to help determine which patients are likely infected with COVID-19.
The robocop deployed in Tunis has been a hit on social media with users posting footage of the machine in action in several parts of the capital.
It can be heard voicing recorded messages calling on citizens to “respect the law … and stay at home to limit the spread [of the virus] and safeguard human lives.”